Wikipedia definition:a marketing strategy that focuses on attracting prospective customers by offering useful information.More specifically, it is about attracting people into your web channels.
First, we have to ask this question: are you making your website a gated community by keeping potential traffic out?If you are not employing proper inbound marketing, you might as well have a gate up around your website. On the new web, the amount of great content coming out each day is astronomical; Eric Schmidt CEO said in 2010 that we are now creating 2 times as much content each day that we had created from the dawn of man all the way up to 2003² – and this is only growing. Without inbound marketing with new content, you are going to struggle to keep pace and generate valuable and sustainable web traffic without good inbound marketing.
So if you aren’t using inbound strategies, your website traffic may to look a little something like this; a barren wasteland. The worst part is probably that you spent all this money to design and develop your site to look pretty and sell your products and (hopefully) it works great, but there’s very little traffic.And you might ask yourself, well how do I know what’s a lot and what’s a little? Trust me, you’ll know.A couple of ways to measure your site’s traffic against others…you can check out compete.com and measure your traffic vs. competitors, or you can just dig into your web analytics. Your traffic sources pie should be pretty eclectic. If all of your traffic is coming from one or two sources, and it’s not really adding up, you are missing something. Just imagine if you lost that one source of traffic, how much traffic would you lose?
Ultimately, inbound marketing becomes about opening your site up to all traffic possibilities. It’s about identifying the right traffic sources and strategically leveraging them to build quality traffic that becomes sustainable. And that means you have to know what the other sources are, which ones are “right”.
Let’s talk about how we can set up a website for inbound marketing success.In today’s web world, your site can’t live by itself. The first thing you need to understand is that there are multiple opportunities to expand your website’s presence, even if it’s not on the website itself. If you looked at it on a map, your website would certainly be the homebase, but you also have a number of satellite arenas with their own features and benefits and audiences. Your website needs these things to work effectively. They need to be integrated from the start. If you haven’t done that, you are already at a disadvantage, first of all, because it’s what users expect, and second, you are cutting off obvious lifelines.
Your website becomes super-sized and amplified with the right supporting pieces in place. It is no longer just this thing floating by itself in web-space. Now, it is part of an entire eco-system, with multiple touch points, all of which help drive traffic and awareness and drive action in their own ways.By expanding your web presence to these other channels, you are creating a 3-dimensional web experience where your content can flourish. This is experience is the online ecosystem.
The online eco-system exists and it is all interconnected.Before we get into the specifics of how to properly conduct inbound marketing, we must first understand the ecosystem itself. What are these supporting pieces?Well, the big ones are obvious: Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, Linkedin. Some would even add Google + and Pinterest to the list.And you might say, I don’t need these, they won’t do anything for my business, or I don’t have the time, or whatever. But the point is, these are very low barrier to entry ways to getting your web presence in other highly visible, highly trafficked, and highly indexed channels.
How do you leverage this eco-system to build traffic? First and foremost, get the foundation pieces in place. Set up profiles on the aforementioned sites. You don’t necessarily have to do anything with them yet, that will come later, but make sure you’re set up and ready to rock.Second, understand which ones are going to work best for you, and which are less important. As a part of this, you should be on the lookout for any additional opportunities such as niche communities, blogs or applications. Find these and sign up or start engaging. If it’s a blog, jump into some conversations in the comments. Talk to your audience, let them know who you are and gain some credibility. This will come in handy down the line when you are promoting your own content.Third, integrate these channels into your website and existing content. If your website doesn’t currently use a Facebook button, like buttons, Twitter links, etc. have isolated it from the digital world. Give your site the opportunity to succeed by incorporating these accessibility features.How do we find that?
Knowing your audience is key to successful inbound marketing. This should be the first thing you ask yourself when determining which channels are most important. Where does my audience spend their time? What are they doing online? What do they engage with the most?You may think you have an idea, but research is important. Get specific. Use the aforementioned compete.com and other tools like spyfu, google ad planner, socialmention.com, radian6 (if you can afford it) and your own website metrics to discover what your audience cares most about.These should be your top insights:What content they like most (on your site or others)What multimedia or engaging content they consume.What sites they frequent.What they are talking about.Demographic information.With this knowledge, you now understand the fundamentals about who your audience is, what will resonate most, where they are most likely to share, and how they are going to engage.
At this point, we have the foundation in place. We’ve measure our audience and created a profile for them, and we’ve set up the necessary profiles and additional web channels we’ll need going forward. These will be your distribution channels. Next, and most importantly, we have to think about and develop the content that is going to drive our traffic. Online content is everywhere. Just look at video: there are 35 million videos uploaded to Youtube each hour¹. 35 million each month! Now think about how many articles, blog posts, infographics, presentations, guides and other types are being produced.But before we actually create the content, we need a strategic roadmap that specifically outlines what kind of content to develop, what information it will be, what format, timing and so forth.
The first thing we want to think about in regards to the content is: is it new and interesting? Obviously, no one wants to read old content and/or content that is not of interest to them, and with some estimates stating that there are more than 150 million blogs online¹, it is more important than ever that your content stands out as powerful and targeted.Going back to our audience profile, find a subject that is both interesting and unique, and something that also connects to your brand in some way.Build a number of concepts using these guidelines. Some concepts may be informational in nature, others humorous, others to drive sales or spur conversation. Get creative, and brainstorm an extensive list of interesting ideas, always keeping in mind your brand/product and your audience’s interests.
The second thing you should be considering is: Does the content add value in some way?I suppose this is just another way to filter out the new and interesting content. Ultimately, the content should offer some inherent or explicit value to its audience. Whether that is the ability to make them laugh, or think, or entertain, or even get some monetary benefit, the content needs to help in some way, otherwise it is forgettable. The other thing to remember is that only valuable content is shared. Friends share content that they value because they want their friends to also see that value. Even if you get a lot of people viewing your content, a lack of value means little sharing, bookmarking and conversation. Which means little sustainability.
Does your content make sense? Now, this isn’t “does it literally make sense” (although it should do that too) but, does it make sense in the context of your brand, who your audience is, where you are distributing the content, and the format of the content. Does all of it make sense together?When developing your content, you should carefully consider its context. For example, you don’t want to enter an existing conversation and throw your content into the mix unless it is highly relevant. If you are going to link from other content, or This ties into the next question…
…Is the content timely? The best thing you can do is come up with great content that relates to something that is being talked about right then. IT doesn’t make sense to develop content for something that was being talked about 3 months ago, right?It may not always be easy to create high-value, good production value content on short notice, but there are ways to plan for it. For example, perhaps you’ve seen a bit of information trending in your industry, or you know there is a new product/newsbyte dropping during a certain time? Develop some content that exploits this information and puts you at the forefront of the conversation.Perhaps there are seasonal trends for your product or service? Develop content that speaks to this seasonality and is relevant during that time.Which brings us to another important tactic: content scheduling. You should be able to schedule content releases at least 6 months in advance. Perhaps you can schedule 6 pieces of significant, timely content throughout the year, and 6 pieces of short-notice, highly-relevant pieces. Either way, the more timely the content is, the more likely it will be pulled into the conversation and drive inbound traffic.
Once you have your channels set up, your content developed, and you’ve scheduled the release, you need to distribute it. We already have many of the distribution channels in place, which we set up and seeded at the beginning, so those should be the first avenues for releasing content. The more “seeded” these channels are, the more powerful each release will be, so make sure you’ve taken part in the conversation ahead of time and generated a decent level of “likes” or follows. With the release of the content, create a short, succinct title that will resonate with your audience and drive click through. Remember, developing and publishing your content is only have of the battle, you need to make sure you pique interest and drive the click once you release the information. The good thing is, people WANT to share content. In fact, there are 30 billion pieces of content shared on Facebook each month¹. The willingness to spread information is there, you just have to tap into it.In addition to your existing channels, find timely blogs, articles, and other conversations that would benefit from your content. Be transparent about who you are, and make it clear that your content can either shed more light or help move the conversation forward.
Once your content has been released into the ecosystem, your job is to harvest, facilitate and contribute to the subsequent conversation. Stay involved with your audience, respond to comments or even criticism. Make your presence known and encourage sharing, so your content becomes an echo chamber and a central part of the discussion. There are an estimated 119 million tweets per day, and users spend nearly 23% of their time online on social media sites¹. Participate and thrive.
With more than 16 billion searches happening in a given month⁴, your content’s search visibility is essential. Once your content is distributed online, you want to have it live somewhere where it can be easily found and indexed, so it continues to provide value over time. As with any new, valuable content, send it through the SEO (search engine optimization) gauntlet, and ensure it uses SEO best practices and keywords. Make sure it is crawlable and can be indexed by search engines.It sounds obvious, but many times a piece of content will be distributed but it will be linked to somewhere deep within a website, or not at all. Each piece of content should be highlighted on your website, perhaps even promoted with unique buttons or callouts. Visibility will help drive additional views and will help highlight your brand in relation to the content.Other ways to do this: for videos, make sure you have youtube and other video channels where your video can live. Pictures can live on sites like Flickr and Facebook. Beyond just distribution channels, you should find channels (in addition to your website) that can house and index your content for long periods of time.
Mobile device and tablet growth is undeniable and will only become more prevalent over time. comScore’s 2011 study on mobile trends states that 42% of all U.S. mobile subscribers now use smartphones, and 40 million tablets are now in use in the U.S³. Your content and distribution should reflect this trend.First and foremost, your website should be viewable on all devices. You should also take a look at your content on these devices to make sure they can be viewed, and in some cases, can be optimized. You may even want to consider creating mobile-specific content, depending on the type of content, audience and distribution channels.
Finally, once all of this is done, use advertising to build additional awareness and traffic. In a perfect world, the quality of your content and the results of your distribution tactics will negate the need for advertising. With that said, advertising can be a great way to get a lot of eyes and a lot of clicks in little time.The easiest form of advertising for clicks is probably paid search advertising on Google, Yahoo and Bing. This is, however, dependent on people searching on related content, so it depends on what the content is.Another method is display advertising, or banners, which will get you a ton of impressions. This would require some production outside of your content, so it will probably require additional work.Facebook ads are a great source of traffic, since it is easier to create ads, and the audience is likely to be in “information browsing” mode. You can also target based on interests, which can be valuable with content.Additional forms of advertising: Display networks, video banner ads, youtube.com sponsored videos or in-video text ads or banners, linkedin.com ads, local advertising on things like Yelp or yellow pages, to name a few. Again, think about what makes the most sense for your content and your audience.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, measure, measure and then measure some more. Use website analytics, publisher analytics, and social media analytics to discover how your content is being shared and if it is driving traffic to your site. Then measure the impact that the traffic or conversation has on your final objectives, whether they be sales, email sign ups, or other goals.Use this information to inform your next piece of content. For example, was traffic from Facebook converting at a higher rate than everything else? Make Facebook the centerpiece of your next content release, figure out what they are talking about the most, drive traffic through your Facebook company page, or use Facebook ads (if you didn’t already). Is there a page on the website where traffic went to most, or a blog post that people spent most time on? Use that information to develop new content or carry the idea even further. You can also look at any conversation, taking unanswered questions or heated topics and developing content to expand on those.
Let’s take a look at the entire process, start to, well, continuation.
Inbound marketing (with content)
Inbound Marketing (with Content) What it means & how to use it
Traffic BuildingBuild Traffic Through Advertising
Understanding Results Measure, Understand & Use Results to Improve
Foundation Audience Content Set Up Execution Results Traffic Distribution
Thank You!Sources:¹ “State of the Internet”, OnlineSchools.org. 2011.http://www.onlineschools.org/state-of-the-internet/soti.html²” Eric Schmidt: Every 2 Days We Create As Much InformationAs We Did Up To 2003”, techcruch.com. 4 August 2010.http://techcrunch.com/2010/08/04/schmidt-data³”2012 Mobile Future in Focus”, comScore. 2012.http://www.comscore.com/2012MobileFutureinFocus⁴”May 2011 Search Engine Market Share from comScore,Compete, Hitwise” searchengineland.com. June 2011.http://searchenginewatch.com/article/2080003/May-2011-Search-Engine-Market-Share-from-comScore-Compete-Hitwise